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Boarding pass… check, passport… check, neck pillow… check, whether you are traveling for business or pleasure the list of things to pack can be endless. One aspect of travel that is often neglected is the nutritional component. Many people count on picking up a snack at the airport to get them to their destination. Unfortunately, airport snacks tend to be loaded with salt and/or sugar (not to mention the exorbitant expense). If you have a food allergy or are looking to optimize your metabolic health, it can be challenging to find nutritious foods that suit your needs. Here are a few quick tips to help you nutritionally prepare for your next adventure.
Things to Look for in a Travel Snack
High-protein snacks are a great choice for travel. Whether you prefer bars, meats, yogurt, beans, or shakes, they all suppress a hormone called Ghrelin. Ghrelin is commonly referred to as the “hunger hormone” and will help you feel full longer (which is great when we have long layovers or travel days).
Pairing a protein with a carbohydrate will result in a glucose response that is lower than consuming a carbohydrate by itself. Consider adding a nut butter to a piece of fresh fruit. Fruit is a great source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients while nut butter provides protein and lowers the glucose rise that can accompany some types of fruit.
Last but certainly not least, you work hard to build muscle, let’s make simple food choices to help maintain the benefits of your efforts. Not eating enough protein can lead to catabolism (a loss of muscle mass). For athletes and active individuals, losing muscle can undo a lot of hard work. For those of us getting up in years, a decrease in muscle mass significantly increases the risk of fractures. Both populations could benefit from a few more high-protein snacks.
When it comes to selecting your high-protein snack, you have a lot of choices. Beef jerky is always a fan favorite. It has one of the highest protein:calorie ratios of any food. Plus, it stores well, doesn’t take up much space, and isn’t messy. However, it has a lot of salt so a few pieces are great but multiple bags are not the healthiest option. If you want to unleash your fancy side, try a DIY charcuterie board. Slice up a few different types of meat, cheeses, or roasted almonds and pack them away for a mid-flight snack.
2. Pass on the Simple Sugars/Refined Carbs
Have you ever deboarded a plane tired, hungry, and frustrated? Most of us have. Typical airport foods (chips, candy, cookies, juices, sodas) are full of fast-digesting carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar then cause a rebound effect (reactive hypoglycemia) that has you feeling hungry, tired, and irritable (aka hangry). Choosing foods with lower simple sugars will help to minimize glucose fluctuations. Opt for packing your own snacks like hard-boiled eggs or beef jerky so you aren’t tempted to reach for the high-sugar airport options.
Trail mix is also a convenient option. It’s easy, doesn’t go bad, isn’t messy, and can allow you to munch throughout the flight. However, many trail mixes are loaded with salt and simple sugars. I like to pack my own for the flight. Feel free to choose your own mix-ins but here are my favorites: popcorn (great for fiber), coconut (healthy fats), dried apricots (go easy on this since it usually has a fair amount of sugar), and unsalted almonds (protein). Making choices that are low in refined carbohydrates not only helps to reduce glucose fluctuations but also helps to reduce cravings. Travel can be surprisingly tiresome and there’s no need to compound this effect with excess simple sugars.
3. Add a Bit of Fiber
Fiber is not only great for your digestive system, but it also helps to stabilize blood sugar levels. Most of us could use a bit more fiber in our diet. The American Heart Association recommends adults consume 25 to 30 grams per day. However, most Americans only consume 15 grams per day. Fiber comes in two types, soluble and insoluble. Insoluble fiber aids in digestion while soluble fiber helps to regulate blood sugar and lower cholesterol. Chia seeds, nuts, beans, apples, blueberries, and lentils are great sources of soluble fiber. Sprinkle chia seeds on yogurt, snack on some mixed roasted nuts, or pack a mini bento box filled with berries, apples, and nuts. Adding fiber to your travel plans will help you to maintain a healthy weight and feel full longer. This can come in handy with unexpected flight delays or extended layovers.
4. Pack a GOOD IDEA
GOOD IDEA is a great pairing with holiday travel plans. While TSA will surely keep your GOOD IDEA for themselves (who can blame them), packing some cans for a road trip can help make your travel healthier. GOOD IDEA, a beverage backed by science, has been shown to reduce post-meal blood sugar by an average of 25%. Stabilizing blood sugar during a long drive can help to reduce anxiousness, maintain concentration, and stabilize energy levels.
If your travel plans include an airplane, solidify your status as “guest of the year” by sending a case of GOOD IDEA to your destination. The flavors of Sweden are sure to be a hit while ensuring that you have an option at mealtime that is metabolically healthy.
Go-To Travel Snacks
- Oven-roasted nuts (which have significantly less salt than salted nuts)
- Veggie chopped salad (which also helps to clear the fridge of leftover fresh vegetables)
- Vegetable sticks with hummus (keep hummus under 3.4 ounces)
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Salmon, cucumber, and cheese
- Travel-friendly charcuterie board
- Nut butter packets with fresh vegetables
- GOOD IDEA
- DIY trail mix
- Protein powder
- Beef jerky
- Fresh fruit and nut butter
There are plenty of other nutritious foods to choose from, but hopefully, these tips get you started. Selecting a snack that is high in protein, low in simple sugars, and with a bit of fiber can help to make your next travel experience healthier.
Author: Dr. Colleen Gulick